So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? (Hebrews 2.3)
I saw the dress first on a mannequin in the shop’s window. Its skirt shimmered despite the February gloom outside, and the subdued sparkles on its top matched perfectly as the lace descended, imperceptibly tapering off into the skirt. It had a gorgeous open back with just enough detail for my daughter’s classic taste.
A few minutes later, she saw it and asked the bridal shop attendant to add it to her growing pile. We were on a whirlwind one-day quest, my youngest child and I, to find her wedding dress. Since she’s a teacher and I’m a pastor, we rarely had the same day off to make the search, and with four hours drive separating us, we chose to seize our day.
We found this dress at our second shop. Losing track of how many dresses she’d tried on, I wondered if we would complete the quest. Two problems compounded the challenge—her indecisiveness and my belief that she looked gorgeous in every dress.
My thinking changed when she put on that dress from the window. She walked out of the changing room, and I gasped. The others had all been lovely on her, but this one was stunning. We both knew it was the one.
The truth is all the dresses did look gorgeous on her, and if she had chosen to walk down the aisle in any of them, she would have stolen her groom’s breath. No one would have ever known that the perfect dress still sat on a mannequin in a window.
But we knew, and we also knew we could never settle for lovely when stunning came into view.
I taught through the book of Hebrews at our church this spring. That book, we learned, can be summed up in two words: Don’t settle.
In a culture where people debated who Jesus was and exactly what he had done, this writer insists that we never settle for anything but the Jesus who turns death and sin completely upside down. He, or she, strives to convince readers of Jesus’ superiority to everything that has come before. The writer wants us to know one thing—don’t settle for less than all that has been done on the cross.
Once we get a taste of a stunning salvation, why would we ever return to options that offer less? Even the ones that look quite beautiful can’t compete with the finished perfection of what Christ has done.
I think a lot of us trip up between “quite nice” and stunning. The ugly things in life don’t tempt us; outright evil rarely attracts Christ followers. The temptations that look like they could fit in our lives, like they might be good enough, though, are the temptations that keep us settling for less than stunning.
We settle for a salvation that forgives us but changes us little.
We settle for being a nice Christian instead of a compassionate one.
We settle for managing our sin rather than conquering it.
We settle for wallowing in our shame instead of embracing the grace of the cross.
We settle for a salvation that’s all about ourselves and forget that restoration is about all of us in relationship.
It all looks good on the outside, but something nags at us inside, insisting that more exists.
We can neglect our salvation in so many ways. The word neglect doesn’t mean to walk away; it means to be careless. It suggests that sometimes we treat our salvation like our car that’s seen too many miles between oil changes and never quite makes it into the garage, yet it still works so it’s fine. Paul suggests that caring for our salvation—not obtaining it but caring for it—takes work. “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12–13 NLT).
Looking at my daughter’s dress, I think, I don’t want a faith that just “works.” I’m not interested in getting by with a good-enough salvation. Looking great on the outside while I know quite well something better exists holds no appeal anymore. I want to work out my salvation, delving into its depths until I discover the power it contains. How is it I so often neglect the most important work I could do?
Hebrews implores me not to settle.
God, your great salvation has the power to change me in all my worst places. Jesus dealt the death blow to the power of sin. Let me not settle for forgiveness but work hard for transformation.
God, your great salvation should move me to care deeply, not pass people by with an offer to pray and a side hug. Let me not settle for nice but work hard for compassionate.
God, your great salvation names the cross joy and death life. Let me not settle for being ashamed of weakness, but, instead, run to your grace that lifted humility high.
God, your great salvation brings restoration and reconciliation to all creation. Let me not settle for my own salvation, but work hard to bring shalom to all relationships in all ways.
A few weeks ago, our baby walked down the aisle between her father and me, wearing that dress we noticed in the window. We didn’t settle for one of the others, pretty as they were. How could we, when we knew we’d be walking away from the best choice we could make?
Don’t settle. How could we neglect so great a salvation?
Photo credit: Jill Richardson